IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Work Plan for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center (2018-2019)

Oct 2018


The IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, located at the University of Iowa, 2018- 2019 Work Plan for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center activities will focus on 1) collection and aggregation of water quality, weather, and land use data, and the tools to manage this data, that are needed to aid in the implementation of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (INRS); 2) interpretation and communication of the weather, water quality, and hydrologic data necessary to track improvements in Iowa water quality driven by the INRS and other factors; and 3) verify and document the nutrient mitigation effectiveness of best management practices in both urban and rural landscapes. Two main research objectives and the outcomes are:


Continued development and aggregation of the Iowa nutrient database to be used by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center in support of scientific understanding and nutrient management. The consolidation and compilation of available data from several existing sources (e.g., Iowa Flood Center, IIHR, USGS, NOAA, NASA, municipal governments, Iowa DNR and other scientists) is needed for improved research communication and collaboration. The collection of this data is a continuing effort to characterize Iowa water quality at the watershed scale. A beta version web-based database for the Iowa Nutrient Research Center was developed in 2015 that harvests data from IIHR equipment as well as that owned and managed by USGS and ARS. This web portal can be viewed at http://iwqis.iowawis.org/.

Characterize water quality at smaller scales to inform practice effectiveness. Recently, a sensor has been installed in a saturated buffer in Adair County, and is helping assess the performance of that practice. The team also is conducting field monitoring of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment inputs and outputs for select BMPs installed in select priority watersheds, including Rapid Creek (Johnson County), Clear Creek (Johnson County), Willow Creek (Jasper County) and Walnut Creek (Jasper County, in collaboration with Grinnell College). In addition, urban storm sewer monitoring (Coralville) and wastewater treatment plant effluent (Iowa City) will be conducted so it can be integrated with ongoing research activities. This will help characterize point source nutrient loads to Iowa streams. The team also continues to assess groundwater quality data generated from sensors at the Big Spring DNR fish hatchery. The outcome of this work will be the crucial information that quantifies nutrient loading for implemented practices and quantitative assessment of installed BMP placement, and characterization of water quality in Iowa streams.

Project Updates

Note: Project reports published on the INRC website are often revised from researchers' original reports to increase consistency.

June 2019


Redeployment of the sensor network began in March following the winter frozen water period. Sensor sites remain largely the same as the 2018 monitoring year. IIHR devices are now deployed across most major Iowa watersheds at about 55 sites. IIHR also continues to harvest water quality data from USGS, USDA-ARS and Coe College sensors, and these data are posted to the Iowa Water Quality Information System (http://iwqis.iowawis.org/ IIHR has also recently hired a new assistant scientist to be responsible for web development and maintenance of IWQIS, Dr. Jerry Mount, previously at Ohio State University.

Sensors continue to measure practice effectiveness at a saturated buffer in Adair County and a CREP wetland in Floyd County. Monitoring to support the Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA) effort and several IDALS WQI projects is ongoing. Sensor deployment also supports a watershed project in Story County (Squaw Creek). Collaborative monitoring projects continue with Coe College (Lime Creek), Grinnell College (Willow Creek), Buena Vista College, and Iowa DNR (Big Spring Fish Hatchery and several turbidity sites around the state). A long-term monitoring site on the Thompson Fork of the Grand River was abandoned because of vandalism. Turbidity data is being analyzed and rating curves are being developed with turbidity, suspended sediment and phosphorus data to quantify loadings of these parameters leaving the state.

The sensor network will also support the Polk County Water Trails Project with turbidity and ISCO automated event sampling, with the intention of relating turbidity to E coli and perhaps other parameters important to help assess the recreational suitability of water trail streams.

This work was highlighted at four field days around the state during this reporting period and highlighted in several presentations, including to the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and an Environmental Defense Fund-sponsored tour. In related work, a new NSF-funded water quality information project will use IWQIS as the platform to develop a WQIS-like system for the Upper Mississippi River Basin (MN, WI, IA, IL, MO).

September 2018

All 11 water quality sensors (hydrolab, turbidimeters and nitratax units) were deployed by June 30. Some of the initial deployments have required maintenance of repair.  

In cooperation with the Iowa DNR, turbidity sensors have been deployed at 10 sites. Turbidity will be used as a proxy for sediment and phosphorus at these locations in an effort to quantify statewide export of these contaminants. Five are deployed at Mississippi River tributaries (Upper Iowa River at Dorchester, Yellow River near Ion, Wapsipinicon River at DeWitt, Des Moines River at Keosauqua, Skunk River at Augusta) and five in Missouri River tributaries (Rock River at Hawarden, Floyd River at James, Little Sioux River at Turin, Boyer River at Missouri Valley, Nishnabotna River at Hamburg). This will provide a mechanism to inexpensively quantify phosphorus loading, which ordinarily would require frequent sample collection and lab analysis. Sensor data is available through the Water Quality Information System (http://iwqis.iowawis.org/app/).